Originally published two years ago, today.
*********It seems that I'm not the only "cock-eyed optimist" when it comes to believing that the suburbs are a viable option in a potentially oil-starved future.
Over at Groovy Green, Aaron Newton posted an article entitled Can We Stay in the Suburbs? His argument that we can is really good - probably better than anything I've written on the topic. Please follow the link to read his fantastic commentary.
The last sentence of his article is we might do best to just stay put.
And to that I say ...
... I completely agree! 100%. We would do best to stay put. Pay off our mortgages, before things get REALLY bad, and own our little partial acres on which we can grow a plethora of crops for personal consumption and potential resale (check out this potential "cash crop" or this one, and this book on backyard market gardening).
On my quarter acre suburban lot, we have several raised beds (most of which were filled entirely by compost we made right here), two perennial herb beds, asparagus, some border plants like rhubarb, raspberry and blackberry brambles, hazelnut bushes, a strawberry bed, several dwarf fruit trees, a grape vine, and several large maples that we tapped for maple syrup just this year. We also have chickens (and ducks as of 2009 :) for eggs and meat, and raise rabbits for meat and fertilizer. Someday, I hope to get a dairy goat.
And I'm not even using all of the space that is available to me to its greatest potential. Using a combination of companion planting, container planting, trellising, and hanging planters, I could, potentially, feed my family of five with just what we could grow ... or forage. In the suburbs where I live, there is a lot of "undeveloped" land on which are growing any number of edible "weeds".
Contrary to what one person who commented on the article asserts, we will not be starving here in the suburbs.
But it's not just food that makes the suburbs a better choice than densely populated urban centers. In an oil-starved future, the oil-dependent infrastructure that keeps these cities clean will no longer be operational. Where I live, we have a septic system, but it would be really easy to build an outhouse or install a composting toilet, and that compost would have a place in my landscaping. In addition, living in more spread-out housing means there is less likelihood of the rampant spread of infectious disease.
We can build self-sufficient communities in the suburbs, not unlike those walkable communities Kunstler is so enamored of.
In the suburbs, we all have a little bit of farmable land, and we all have space in our homes for some small entrepreneurial endeavor (i.e. home business). It would be a huge mistake to give up the suburbs to move into what will likely become the over-crowded, disease ridden cities that we were trying to escape when we built the suburbs in the first place ... or worse, to build new communities in what are currently undeveloped, natural habitats or good, arable farmland.
I say, we have done enough of trying to figure out how to create the perfect Utopian community (hint: there is no such thing), and it is now time to figure out how to make what we have fit what we need. *********
Two years later, and nothing's changed ... except that we're much closer to that collapse we've been hearing about, but not any closer to developing solutions. Sad, I think.
My challenge to you for today: If you live in the suburbs, go out today and meet one of your neighbors. Take cookies ... or homemade muffins. Even if they don't eat it, they'll appreciate the gesture.